I grew up watching giant skeletal arms shuffle housing units and research pods back and forth in cavernous metal webs. Their sides were white mesh and algae, like giant rectangular snow globes.
Rectangular prisms. Not rectangles, rectangular prisms.
I was a spoiled little shit. We had a plan for me. While Dad was out working on the turbines out in the lattice gardens at South End, Mom was homeschooling, inviting all his engineer friends over, making good use of her half a dozen degrees. They were going to turn me into a little genius. I was going to get a full ride to MIT working on a reactor or something important, because I was the only one in a hundred miles who knew how.
They’d make it that way.
I’d make enough to have a pod down the block, a cube, a snow globe of hyper-engineered mesh and algae providing me with all the power and heat and air I’d need, with a private garden on the top for the extra money I paid them, enough to make sure no one moved in above me to take it away.
Nothing would ruin it, not a slumped economy, not a world riddled with schizophrenic weather and frantic markets, not the riots in the third world countries or the ghettos. They had shit to do with us. We gave them all the science to make free food, free energy, stability, it wasn’t our fault if the world was too stupid to figure out how to make it work on their own.
Nothing, no matter how uncertain it was past our snow globe windows, was going to challenge the certainly of this.
And then I fucked it all up. Somewhere between dividing fractions and reading context clues — if I think hard I can picture it. A paragraph about a book I didn’t want to read. It doesn’t matter what book, I didn’t read it, I don’t remember the book. I remember the sentence that stuck me.
What is Zusak trying to say about freedom?
It was such a stupid question. It didn’t make sense. It made less sense when the letters started blurring. I remember shaking the pad screen like it might be the program’s fault. The whole world moved with it. I though about the snow globes again, everything went hot, everything went white, and then I was on the floor.
There was a pop, there was blood.
They said I wasn’t making any noise. That it was the scariest part. I wasn’t crying. Just laying there with blisters, shards and shreds. I didn’t know what the inside of a computer looked like yet but I knew that the pieces of it were everywhere.
He sued the company, Dad. They never got to settle it. The next week I set the oven on fire. The oven wasn’t on.
There are signs, you know, that your kid is something that can’t be fixed. They start getting sick for no reason. Things start getting hot, or the kid gets fevers he shouldn’t live through but he lives anyway.
Weird shit starts happening, plants start dying, food starts going bad, next thing you know the dog’s got burns and Mommy and Daddy have government hotlines on speed dial.
They had this advantage, working with all these scientists and shit. They knew what Elementals were. I mean I didn’t but what did I know? I was twelve.
And funny story, did you know you can make a twelve-year-old disappear? You can make a twelve-year-old disappear. You can wait til he’s sleeping and wrap him up. If you’re nice about it you can give him some time, wait ‘til he’s fixed up. It works better that way. If he’s on good drugs he won’t wake up.
You can put him in the car, drive him out to Bumfuck, Nowehere. You can bribe a doctor to say he died from something that someone did wrong and get enough money to pay for the clone you already started from the DNA you stored when he was born. You can pay the old tutors twice as much if they stop bringing up his name and fire them if they don’t.